Human Sexuality Task Force Opening Panel

On Thursday, Jan. 15, Eastern’s Human Sexuality Task Force, appointed last semester by President Duffett to address questions of human sexuality on a Christian campus, hosted an event, “Opening Panel: Why is it important that we are having this discussion?” This panel, presented to a packed McInnis Auditorium, is the first event of this year’s two-part series on human sexuality: part one, taking place throughout spring 2015, is intended to instruct on the multifaceted issues of human sexuality, and part two (fall 2015) will be dedicated to discussing the application of sexual ethics.

Dr. Huddell, Eastern Faculty Senate Moderator and chair of the mathematics department, moderated the panel on Thursday consisting of six panelists: Jocelyn Paul (student, biochemistry major), President Duffett, Efram Harkins (student, psychology major), Dr. Gwen White (Director of Eastern’s Doctoral Program in Family Therapy), Dr. Calenthia Dowdy (Associate Professor of Youth Ministry), and Dr. Christopher Hall (Professor of Theological Studies). Dr. Huddell asked panelists a few questions before opening the floor to the audience, who could either text questions anonymously or hand in a question via index card.

The panelists began by each answering a question posed by the moderator: “Why is this conversation so important?” Dr. Dowdy said that she knows of individuals that are “living and walking in fear” because of their sexual orientation, and that is why this conversation is necessary. She said that there is a danger in only knowing one narrative about those of differing identities than ourselves, and hopes that this conversation will challenge that singular knowledge. President Duffett stressed the importance of having this conversation at Eastern, saying, “If we can’t have [this conversation] in the midst of a Christian University, then where will we do it?”

Jocelyn Paul added, “We have had conversations like this before, and they haven’t gone well,” but she believes that the conversations happening in this next year will be different. When the panel was asked what their greatest anxieties were regarding this conversation on human sexuality, Paul responded that she feared that participants would “talk a lot and not pray enough” throughout the process.

Dr. Hall spoke on the knowledge that he has already gained from being a part of the conversation: “I have realized that there are gaps in my education that need to get filled in, because the gaps represent people.” Dr. Hall added that acknowledging one’s own areas of ignorance does not mean necessarily changing one’s point of view, but it does mean that one’s point of view “would be more well-versed.”

Efram Harkins acknowledged the anxieties felt by both the panel and the audience: “This is not an easy process… whether you are tenured or non-tenured, out-student, not out-student, straight, cis, gay, lesbian, transgender. There is so much risk just engaging in [this conversation], and I think there will be a lot of reward for doing so… It is going to be a thorough investigation, a thorough educational pursuit, and a Christian pursuit.”

The next event is presented by Ron Sider, titled “Evangelicals and Homosexuality: Deep Repentance, Major Change and Biblical Faithfulness”on Jan. 28, 7:00-8:30 p.m., in the Gough Great Room with Al Tizon moderating, hosted by Palmer Seminary and Evangelicals for Social Action.

A Conversation On Human Sexuality (full list of events)

Part I: The Nature of Sexuality and Sexual Difference

  • 1/15, 7-9pm – Opening Panel: Why is it important that we are having this discussion? [McInnis Auditorium] Walt Huddell moderating, hosted by the Task Force on Human Sexuality
  • 1/28, 7-8:30pm – Ron Sider, “Evangelicals and Homosexuality: Deep Repentance, Major Change and Biblical Faithfulness” [Gough Great Room] Al Tizon moderating, hosted by Palmer Seminary and Evangelicals for Social Action
  • 2/4, 7-8:30pm – Landi Turner, “LGBTQIA… what does it all mean?” [Gough Great Room] Tara Stoppa moderating, hosted by the Psychology Department
  • 2/16, 12-2pm, 7-9pm – “Stories of Courage and Healing: Experiences of LGBTQ Eastern Alumni” [Walton Hall 2; Eagle Great Room] Efram Harkins moderating, hosted by Refuge
  • 2/23, 7-8:30pm – Megan DeFranza, “Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God” [Eagle Great Room] Eric Flett moderating, hosted  by Christian Studies
  • 3/10, 3-4:30pm – Martha Eads, “Tea and Talk: Eastern Mennonite University’s Listening Process and Book Discussion around Issues of Sexual Difference” [Baird Library] Chris Bittenbender moderating, hosted by the English Department
  • 3/17, 7-8:10pm – Eve Tushnet (author of Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith), “Gay, Lesbian and Celibate” [Eagle Great Room] R.J. Snell moderating, hosted by the Philosophy Department
  • 3/26, 7-8:30pm – David P. Gushee (author of Changing Our Mind: A call from America’s leading evangelical ethics scholar for full acceptance of LGBT Christians in the Church), “Changing Our Mind on LGBT Christians: What I Believe” [McInnis Auditorium] Ryan Paetzold moderating, hosted by OneEastern
  • 3/27, Windows at 10am – David P. Gushee, “Changing Our Mind on LGBT Christians: How I Got Here” [McInnis Auditorium]
  • 3/31, 7-8:30pm – “Staying True to Selves: Living Intersectional Race, Sexual, Gender and Christian Identities” [Eagle Great Room] hosted by Gender Studies: Seminar by the Sea
  • 4/10, 7-8:30pm – Margaret Peterson, Jenny Tibbels and Acting Students, “Scenes from a Marriage: A Performance and Dialogue” [McInnis Auditorium] Margaret Peterson moderating, hosted by the Theatre Department
  • 4/17, Windows at 10am – Jenell Williams Paris (author of The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are), “Courageous Leadership in Christian Sex/Gender Conflicts” [McInnis Auditorium] Jonathan Yonan moderating, hosted by Templeton Honors College
  • 4/21, 7-8:30pm – “The Black Church and Sexuality: Conflicting Messages?” [Eagle Great Room] hosted by the Multicultural Awareness Advisory Committee


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